10 Strategies that Transform Passive Learners into Active Learners

Posted by Erica Warren on

Students’ forearms prop heavy heads and eye lids become fatigued and weighty. Information fills the room, but the restless audience remains impervious as attention is stolen by fleeting thoughts and boredom. If this is a common scene at your school, most likely the learning environment is passive.
Although a passive learning environment can accommodate large numbers of students, it is often an ineffective scholastic milieu. In contrast, an active learning environment should have the opposite effect on students. This way of teaching encourages creativity, self directed learning, mindfulness, interaction, discussion and multisensory ways of processing.

Executive Functioning Challenges in Passive Learners

Passive learners often struggle with executive functioning issues, which are crucial cognitive processes that enable individuals to plan, focus attention, remember instructions, and juggle multiple tasks effectively. These learners may find it difficult to initiate tasks, manage time, and organize their work, leading to procrastination and incomplete assignments. The lack of engagement and interaction in passive learning environments exacerbates these difficulties, as students do not develop the necessary skills to think critically, solve problems independently, or regulate their behavior and emotions. Consequently, passive learners may experience heightened stress and frustration, further hindering their academic performance and overall well-being. To address these challenges, it's essential to create active learning environments that foster executive functioning skills through interactive, hands-on activities and collaborative learning experiences.

Executive Functioning Coaching

So What Can I Do to Nurture Active Learning?

There are a number of things you can do to nurture an active learning environment.  Here are 10 suggestions.
  1. Help your students understand the difference between active and passive learning.
  2. Encourage your students to complete the free Passive vs. Active Learning Profile offered free here.
  3. Consider Consider Dr. Warren's executive functioning coaching or training:  learn more
  4. Let your students brainstorm things they can do to become active learners.
  5. Allow your students to brainstorm things you can do to help them become active learners.
  6. Integrate active learning activities into the classroom such as acting, small group work and hands on activities.
  7. Incorporate fun learning stations in the classroom, so that the students can move around and process with other peers in smaller groups.
  8. Encourage students to preview new topics by watching YouTube clips or doing internet searches so that they come to class with some prior knowledge.
  9. Give students assignment options so that they can make a choice on how they would like to demonstrate their mastery of the content. Make sure the different options tap into different learning modalities.
  10. Consider the 12 ways of learning and teach in a multisensory fashion.
  11. Break the class into groups where they take opposing positions on a topic. Allow one student from each group to facilitate the discussion. The teacher can act as the judge and can dole out points for good arguments, creative content and clever presentations.
If you found this blog and activity toworksheet for passive learners be helpful, this is just one of the many resources available in the publication, Planning, Time Management and Organization for Success: Quick and Easy Approaches to Mastering Executive Functioning Skills for Students.

Cheers, Erica

Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator, and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning. She is also the director of Learning to Learn and Learning Specialist Courses.

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